By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Now through Sunday, hundreds of America’s best wheelchair athletes are in Philadelphia, competing in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Paralyzed Veterans of America present the games each year, open to military vets who use wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, amputations, or neurological problems.
Today, inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, a kickoff event featured a demonstration of wheelchair quad rugby — or, as the players call it, “murderball.”
Mason Symons, of Pine Grove, Pa., says the object of murderball is to move the ball (identical to a volleyball) across the goal line by any means possible — but players must dribble at least once every ten seconds.
“We have four people per team on the court,” he explains. “You use all-metal chairs and it’s full contact, but you can’t use your hands to touch the opponent.”
Mike Galloucis, of the Department of Veterans Affairs, says adaptive sports are important as part of the therapy used to treat many disabilities.
‘Yes, there is trash-talking when you get people from different services together, but the department sees it as an adaptive rehabilitative event, because a lot of the veterans train to come to this,” he notes.
The five days of competition for more than 600 disabled vets includes 18 medaled sporting events including quad rugby, basketball, handcycling, and swimming.
This year’s theme is “Philly: Where Heroes Make History.”